By Alison Chambers, CARIBAVIA Editor.
Airlines are back and people are flying again, highlighted Gavin Eccles, Professor Aviation and Tourism at Lisbon University, Portgual, making his debut at CARIBAVIA.
The low cost carriers have led the ramp up, especially in Asia - which is forging ahead as the real growth territory. Asian LCC’s have been booming pre pandemic but Covid forced China to go domestic, which was very strong in 2020 and 2021. Slowing over the last few months with their lockdown, China nevertheless opened new airports. US LCC’s also logged more bookings during the pandemic and new two LCCs were launched - Breeze Airlines and Avelo.
Domestic tourism has surged globally with crazy recent examples like Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Montana becoming the busiest airport in the world - with 30 movements an hour inside two weeks.
In Europe Lufthansa is piling into Greece and Portugal. Sun Express in Turkey is making great strides with its leisure-driven focus, capitalising on its joint venture with Lufthansa and Saudi Arabia is self sufficient with its own tourism drive through the introduction of the Saudi National Air Connectivity Programe. It is focusing on 330 million passengers in 2030 coming into its new resorts - 227 million of them it anticipates, will be new travellers.
By Melanie Reffes.
The Caribbean’s first and longest-running conference focused on regional aviation, the sixth annual Caribavia Summit & Retreat was held at the Simpson Bay Resort on the Dutch side of the dual-nation island June 13th to 15th.
The conference welcomed delegates from the US, Canada, Portugal, UK, France, and United Arab Emirates and Caribbean participants from St. Maarten, The Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, St. Eustatius, Saba and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Delivering opening remarks, Hon. Silveria E Jacobs, Prime Minister, St Maarten referenced the challenges of the pandemic noting the region still faces hurdles relating to aviation access, “Sint Maarten whose economy is almost 100 percent based on tourism has shown great resilience, if we as a government are to adopt economic and regulatory policies that encourage the development of air transport, demand could increase in our region.”
Discussing the importance of air transport for St. Maarten, a hub for the surrounding islands, and the Caribbean, Jacobs cited three-pronged priorities for the government - Improving connectivity, making fares more affordable and improving networks and trade. In response to a question on climate change, she concurred that this is an especially important issue for the Caribbean.
"The entire world has a role in maintaining island nations, to ensure our very existence and to act more sustainably," she said.
By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert, CARIBAVIA Founder & Chairman.
Think drones. Now think of drones carrying passengers and the abbreviation eVTOL for Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing, begins to make sense. eVTOL is a new segment of the private/business aviation industry and it will be faster growing than one imagines.
It is all about moving people fast from point to point without hurdles. What is the hurdle in the Caribbean? The water between the islands. The Caribbean is considered the world’s region that is the most depending on air transportation. These flying machines can deliver on-demand flights at a more affordable price, and trips from island to island will be quick and easy. It will bring joy of flight to islanders and tourist visitors.
The Bahamas consists of a chain of islands spread out over some 800 km/500 mi. There are some 700 and 2,400 cays in total. Thirty are inhabited. The Turks & Caicos has eight main islands and more than 22 smaller islands. The British Virgin Islands comprise around 60 tropical Caribbean islands. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a main island and a chain of 32 smaller islands. These are just examples in the region.
Just imagine what inter island transportation with passenger drones could mean for the development of these territories. Island air mobility with the new flying vehicles will be a game changer for smart archipelago nations. In the future one may read about the many passenger drones moving people around the hundreds of islands, islets and cays of the in the Caribbean. Tourism and travel magazines will highlight the new opportunities to enjoy the region. In an area that is highly dependent on hospitality and tourism, passenger drones will become a tourist attraction to see the islands from above.
Heed the seven cardinal rules to navigate a crisis
Jeff Chatterton, an expert in aviation crisis communications, advised CARIBAVIA attendees there are seven cardinal rules when dealing with a crisis and speaking with the media and public in general that will deliver a company’s reputation intact - post an event.
These include: an enormous amount of empathy, the ability to understand, not challenge (aka “shut up and listen”); address the hot buttons before your audience does; do not take the situation personally; focus on conclusions before facts; continue the dialogue; and understand perception.
Drawing on his numerous experiences that have included the aviation industry, Jeff is the author of Leaders Under Fire: The CEO’s Survival Guide to Navigating Corporate Crisis. The book is written for “anyone who values their reputation, and understands how fragile it is today. Leaders who have spent decades building reputations have seen them destroyed in minutes. We'll help you avoid those traps.”
By Alison Chambers, CARIBAVIA Editor.
Melanie Reffes is an island girl living on the sunny island of - Montreal. Born in New York, Melanie is an award-winning travel journalist with an insatiable appetite for the Caribbean
She writes for USA TODAY TRAVEL, Caribbean Journal, CaribbeanTravel.com, Quebec’s The Suburban, 10Best and others. She was delighted to be back in St Maarten to offer her expertise on how best to present the Caribbean to overseas media, how to ‘pitch’ a story and strategies that are best to avoid if you are in PR.
“Please don’t email me late at night to pitch a story. I would rather not be disturbed. And don’t be familiar if you don’t know me, call me Margaret, when my name is Melanie,” she started - immediately grabbing audience interest. Don’t send me messages ‘from the desk of,’ or sign off with a faceless media@ contact. I like a name and a telephone number, she continued. And, if I send you an email asking for something, professional to professional, please don’t copy 12 other people in the hope that one of them might answer me.
The pandemic has brought a massive change in the editorial landscape, Melanie stated. The freelance world has exploded and there is a lot of competition to pitch strong, authentic, truly interesting travel stories.
Leading aircraft management company, VOLUXIS, has appointed industry veteran Adrian Price as its new Head of Training.
Adrian is a highly experienced private jet captain having operated across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and North America, who has worked for the company for the last 14 years.
Andrew Boxer Missen, CEO of VOLUXIS, commented: “I am delighted to see Adrian promoted to the Head of Training position. As a highly capable and experienced pilot, Adrian will be able to develop this crucial Nominated Postholder role and ensure that VOLUXIS continues to maintain the very highest safety and training standards. Adrian has been working for the company for many years and brings to the training table a huge amount of expertise.”
The role involves overseeing the smooth running of the company’s training department, which primarily involves ensuring that the crew and ground operations teams’ training courses are delivered on time and in full regulatory compliance.
Price concluded: “Ensuring that the highest standards of training are maintained is key to our continued safe operation and in not only meeting, but where possible exceeding, regulatory compliance.”
Twenty-seven days into the month of June 2022, global business jet and turboprop activity, 17% of global fixed wing flights, is outpacing pre-pandemic June by 16%.
According to WINGX`s weekly Global Market Tracker published today, business jets have a stronger trend, sectors up by 20% in the month-to-date. Scheduled operations are recovering, with all airline sectors up by 26% on June 2021 but still down by 24% compared to June 2019.
Cargo operators, whose operations were resilient throughout the pandemic, have dropped off slightly this year, though still up by 2% versus 2019. Other aircraft activity, comprising much of the airliner aircraft available for charter, has now rebounded above comparable 2019 activity.
By Alison Chambers.
“Aviation is crucial to St Barth’s,” highlighted Xavier Lédée, the Island’s newly elected President who took time out of his busy schedule to meet with a few CARIBAVIA media and tourism representatives of the Caribbean Islands of St Maarten and Saba during a Mini Summit on the Island on 16th June.
“We are a small Island, with a small airport and small harbour, so aircraft connectivity gives us the opportunity not only to welcome tourists, but for our people to move outside the Island and go on vacation,” he told us.
St Barth’s, home to 10,000 residents, is a perfect example of how private aviation and regional aviation work in harmony - St Barth’s Executive with its Pilatus PC-12s, available for private charter and St Barth’s Commuter with its regular Cessna Grand Caravan commuter services.
We flew from the smaller Grand Case Airport aboard a very comfortable Cessna Grand New Caravan. Flight time was just seven minutes.
St. Maarten/St. Martin:
By Kelly Murphy.
To the delight and surprise of schoolgirls on St. Maarten/St. Martin, a pair of US Marine Corps V-22 Ospreys made an impressive start to the first Girls in Aviation Day in the Caribbean, organized by Women in Aviation International (WAI.org) and supported by a dozen local businesses and aviation volunteers.
Some 30 participants from both the Dutch and French side of St. Maarten/St. Martin were welcomed by WAI Corporate Member HeliRiviera at Grand Case-Esperance Airport.
These 11- and 12-year old students from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School and College Soualiga were introduced to all the various segments of aviation by meeting positive female role models who assisted with educational hands-on activities during a morning session that was capped off with a delicious lunch before the girls returned to school.
By Alison Chambers.
Bringing the right people together to make business happen is what drives Cdr Bud Slaebbart, founder of CARIBAVIA and this year audience reaction to an especially engaging presentation by Brice Nzeukou, Director Business and Product Development, looks like it has set Ampaire on the path to establishing a Caribbean base.
Introducing the Los Angeles based company and its mission since 2016 to decarbonise traditional aviation, Brice spoke about the platforms that Ampaire is working on.
Eco Caravan on its first ground test.
“We have a vision for air travel with energy-optimised aircraft that are clean, quiet and affordable,” he said, noting we are right on the precipice of making a major impact on the aviation industry as a whole. Ampaire’s offering toward carbon neutrality combines sustainable aviation fuel and hybrid electric technology.
By Kathryn B. Creedy
What do you do when 30 girls and an equal number of adults get completely psyched about aviation careers after attending the Inaugural Women in Aviation International’s Girls in Aviation Day on St. Martin?
Photo: Alvin Prescod Photography
While not easy, you make sure they have the educational and training opportunities to pursue their dreams. That is exactly what attendees at this year’s CARIBAVIA conference committed to doing - not just at SXM but across the region.
The annual conference has long advocated for creating educational opportunities in the Caribbean and this year local and international attendees - academics, air traffic controllers, airline and airport executives, drone operators, advanced air mobility advocates, tourism officials and parliamentarians - formally dedicated themselves to bringing Caribbean-based aviation educational opportunities to reality.
By Kathryn B. Creedy.
Cessna is a venerable name in the Caribbean with its Caravan a mainstay of the Caribbean airline fleet, most notably with St. Barth Commuter.
So, it is little surprise the company’s new Cessna SkyCourier - purpose built for cargo services but offering improved passenger services - is drawing attention.
On the heels of its first delivery to Fed Ex earlier this year, Mike Haenggi, manager of fleet sales at Textron Aviation, parent company to Cessna, spoke of the aircraft’s potential at CARIBAVIA, saying it is built on the success of the Caravan. However, it offers increased utility and promises low operating costs. He sees it as a perfect replacement aircraft for older Caravans which already play a large role in cargo transport in the region.
Gulfstream's all-new ultralong-range Gulfstream G800 successfully completed its first flight, officially launching the flight-test program of the industry’s longest-range aircraft.
Announced in October 2021, the G800 is the latest addition to Gulfstream’s next-generation fleet to take flight and make progress toward customer deliveries.
The G800 departed Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport at 9:00 a.m. and landed there two hours later. In keeping with Gulfstream’s commitment to sustainability leadership in aviation, the aircraft made the flight using a blend of sustainable aviation fuel.
By Kathryn B. Creedy.
Airlines have been created throughout the Caribbean precisely to address one of the region’s major problems - inter-island airlift - making these airlines some of the most important economic drivers in the area.
But governments’ stubborn resistance to liberalization and harmonization are blocking what could be overwhelming new economic activity as they continue to protect their local airlines.
For years, regional airlines and visionaries like CARIBAVIA Founder Bud Slabbaert have pushed for a single-Caribbean sky, described by Slabbaert in BlueSky. They know that doing so would unlock billions in economic activity throughout the region if only government policies protecting incumbents and imposing taxes would change.
Winair, St. Barth Commuter, Inter-Caribbean Airways, EZ Air provide the connectivity between islands that would otherwise only be done over Miami, a long slog not only requiring long waits that stretch trips sometimes to days to complete the door-to-door trip. (See related story on St. Barth Commuter in this issue).
Outside the Box
Slowly, but surely, however, islanders are developing their own solutions to get people around the region. They wish governments would understand aviation’s value. These entrepreneurs are plowing through using some outside the box thinking.
By Kelly Murphy.
Being a premium destination in the Caribbean, the beautiful island of St. Barthelemy (St. Bart’s) in the French West Indies deserves its own airline.
That opportunity was fulfilled in late 1994 by Bruno Margras and Michel Martinon when the pair founded St. Barth Commuter.
Today, the airline is run by Bruno’s son, Bertrand Margras, who has been general manager since January 2017. Bertrand joined the airline in 2004 and has held roles as airworthiness manager and head of flight crew training. An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate with a Bachelor of Science in aviation, he also holds both FAA and EASA pilot certificates and acts as an instructor and examiner for St Barth Commuter.
“I like to define ourselves as an air service company that also provides air medical service, and sometimes cargo. We will keep providing a good service to our clients with the nicest aircraft possible,” Bertrand says. He notes that since the formation of St. Barth Commuter the goal continues to be providing a solution to take private clients and tourists from St. Martin. “That’s what we do, and our DNA is to provide connecting charter flights from the private jets that fly into neighboring St. Martin - a short eight-minute flight.”
“On a normal year we provide service to 38,000 to 40,000 passengers with 20 scheduled daily flights from St. Martin’s Grand Case Airport on the French side as well as Princess Juliana, and Guadeloupe. Sometimes during the season, we will have 35-minute flights to Antigua.”
Bertrand is proud that approximately 40% of the company’s staff of 34 is female.
By Kathryn B. Creedy.
Airline disruptions, airport chaos, and rising societal violence in general have caused a dramatic increase in attacks including air rage, forcing passengers to consider what they must do to protect themselves when faced with an out-of-control passenger on board, or at an airport.
Frederick Reitz, CEO, Founder SAFESky, World Jiu Jitsu Champion Aarti Baran and her Jiu Jitsu colleague.
Frederick Reitz, CEO and founder of SAFESky told CARIBAVIA conference attendees that, unless you are trained, the best and safest thing to do is get out of the way, far away from the action.
Perhaps the most important thing to do is plan ahead by thinking about what you would do in a bad situation.
By Kathryn B. Creedy.
With the success of the annual CARIBAVIA Summit rising, organizers are launching another conference - this time to boost private aviation in Europe.
“It is important to connect and network and we are launching RIVIERAVIA because the same people who visit the Caribbean with yachts and business aircraft also have their residence in the Riviera region or do business in Monaco, Founder Bud Slabbaert told CARIBAVIA attendees on the last day of the conference. “So, there is a large community of interest between the two regions. Depending on the season, Nice is the busiest or second busiest airport in Europe, making it an ideal setting for RIVIERAVIA.”
A solutions-oriented communication platform, the conference is scheduled for September 27th to 30th, 2022 in Nice. The inaugural RIVIERAVIA Summit coincides with the Monaco Yacht Show, leveraging a widespread attendance of aviation companies at the show and promoting nearby Albenga Airport, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Albenga is a quiet private aviation gateway to the Côte d'Azur.
Our reporting team, Alison Chambers, Kelly Murphy and Kathryn Creedy share their CARIBAVIA highlights.
Returning from St Maarten it struck me, with gratitude, that CARIBAVIA is an event like no other.
You find yourself looking for people you met the year before, quickly building up rapport with new arrivals and missing regulars (Adam Twidell and Seth Miller - the latter at his primary show Aircraft Interiors in Hamburg). Regulars do find themselves carefully scrutinizing their travel and home diaries to ponder ‘how can I make this work.’ Part of its success is that it is an intimate event. No more than 80 people. It is uncorporate, network focused, which starts with yoga overlooking the ocean.
My personal highlight was a day trip to St Barth’s with St Barth Commuter by Grand Cessna Caravan. Anything Textron aircraft related these past two months has been rather fortituous for me - their business jets seemingly at my disposal faced with easyJet cancellations or delays (thank you Ashley Namibas and Air Charter Scotland). So it was rather poignant that this trip would make it a hat trick.
Stepping off the aircraft after a record eight minutes from Grand Case Airport my Iphone pings to inform me I am a brand new Grandmother. Baby Millicent arrived seven days early, back home. What an amazing place to celebrate, along with media and tourism friends.
Early risers at CARIBAVIA 2022 had the opportunity to take advantage of free yoga sessions each morning of the three-day conference. Thank you to @islandrebelyogasxm instructor Susie for offering outdoor 40 minute revitalizing sessions at the Simpson Bay Resort.
Starting the day with yoga is one of the stand out differentiators of CARIBAVIA!